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Short - About Cats

Short - About Cats

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Published by Benjamin Gross

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Published by: Benjamin Gross on Feb 03, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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I arrive in Borough Hall exactly sevenminutes late, missingtheWell-DressedCouncilman’s pre-meetingflirtation with themousy Assistant Recreation Director, thepledge of allegiance and items one throughthree on the agenda. Theaudienceisclose tofull, and Isit next to an old bald man who, it appearsfrom his cold stare, desires no smallmisfortune on theWell-Dressed Councilman.The agenda is longand dull but read by theCouncil President withawkward enthusiasm.I look around thechamber and count thenumber of civil servants in attendance.Theyare easy to spot, all sittingnear the rear exit door, and appear variously bored with theproceedings, or alarmedwhen citizencomplaints are parried intheir direction.Agenda itemsixintroduces the first controversy of the evening.“I’m not againstcats per se,” the youngest councilman begins cautiously, “but...”“But you are against cats,clearly,” observesthe Well-DressedCouncilman. “Cats liveinthis town too.We owe a duty. A duty to cat-lovers.”This exchange ends theclickety-clack of Blackberry textingin theaudience.The youngest councilmansenses onehundred percent of the eyes in the audienceare focused in his direction.“It is not aboutcats. And do not interrupt,please.”“You justsaid it was about cats,” interruptsthe Well-DressedCouncilman. “You can’t hidefrom that.”“Yeah, what’s wrongwithcats?spits thegum-chewingcouncilman. “You don’t careabout cats!”TheCouncil President looks around the roomand reddens. Two distinctfactions wereformingbut he couldn’t yet judge whether thepro-cat faction held the majority.“Order,order!” demands the CouncilPresident. The Council President hatedcontroversy, but even worse, hated beingonthe wrongside of acontroversy. To him,it was no longer about cats,it was about displeasinga faction,especially the largerone. “Let Michaelhave hissay.”Michael, the youngest councilman, was alsothe newest councilman. He had nothing, hisbrief public record wouldsuggest,against cats. Last nighthe spent sleepless hours inmock argument about agenda item seven, not agenda item six. And he was acutely awarethat if he continued to battle cats and theWell-Dressed Councilmanhe’d be labeled bythe local press as anti-cat.Michaelscans the audience. Several cat-loversglare at him with cat-likemenace. A fewopenly regard him with sympathy. The lonenewsman pauseshis scribblingand a grinforms under the thatchesof his ample facialhair.“I’m nothidingfromcats.It’s not aboutcats.But why should we fund acat shelterin theold Saybrook mansion? The borough managerjust said we are facinganother deficit!The audienceerupts in adissonantsymphonyof angry whispers anduncontrolled giggling.The boroughmanager appears tostudy ablank legal pad. The newsman scribbles.TheCouncil President remains unsettled.“See, it’s about cats,” addsthe gum-chewingcouncilman.“You don’t like cats. Why are youso negative about cats, anyway?”TheWell-Dressed Councilman winks at theAssistant Recreation Director,smiles in the
direction of thescribblingnewsman and leansclose to hismicrophone.“Michael, you are either tolerant ofcats, ornot. The good people of this town deservewell-treated cats. And I’mnot goingto let your cat hatingstandin our way.”Two rows in front of me,a middle-agedwoman with long, greasy hair risesin herseat. Her face betrays a grave expressionsuggestingpartiality to Boonesdale’sunclaimed cats.“My cats – mycatshave acomfortable home,”starts the greasy cat lady.“All cats deservecomfortable homes.”Deserving, unclaimedcatsappear to shift audiencesympathies.TheCouncil President,nothingif not a barometer of human emotion,wastes no time.“Thank you.Thank you. Now busy meetingtonight.”Michaelcorrectly sees defeat and slumps inhis chair.Four to one. Cats win. Thegreasy cat ladyglows triumphant and pulls from a large bagalimplystructured sandwich which, from threerows away,smells like wet cat food, though Iwonder whethermy senses wereundulyinfluenced by the just concluded debate.TheCouncil President presently defers to theWell-Dressed Councilmanto expand upon themerits of agenda itemseven.Agenda itemseven, we learn, will buck up theeconomy, reduce unemployment by exactly17 and deter binge drinkingwithinBoonesdale’sirregular 2½ mile square.Theold bald man next to me betrayed noclear bias for or against cats. But whateverrestraints permitted neutrality to agendaitem sixare unbound by the Well-DressedCouncilman’s proposal.The old baldman’sheavy footmakes its unwelcomeacquaintance to mine andhe shoots out of hisseat into themiddle aisle.“Fifty cents? Fifty cents on e’vry beer, yousay? It’d putme outof business!”The baldare less able to hide theirmorepassionate emotions.Thisis trueof myformer neighbor, whose glossy crown isshadinga deep red.“And fer what? A gubment run healthclub!”asks and answers theoldbald man.TheCouncil President tilts his head inconspicuous fashion toward the Well-DressedCouncilman.TheWell-Dressed Councilmanshiftshis tie andsmiles broadly toward hisantagonist.“We did the math. Fifty cents a beer and wecan keep our citizens healthy. For free, Imight add. And reduce unemployment.” TheWell-Dress Councilman ison a roll.“Government is not just our friend;it can beyour personal trainer too!”This observation causes the old baldman togargle and wave his armswildly.“It’smy business and yerain’t my friend.What?What do I have to pay for a bunchayuppies at the gym for? You outta yermind?”TheCouncil President adds that the old baldman will be fine, only hiscustomers have topay the Beer Tax. This clarification raisesconcernamonga distinctbloc of the audiencewhose murmuringoffends the greasy cat lady.

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